The Day Tokyo-3 Stood Still:

It’s the second arc of the series, and that means the ensemble cast is now in full effect. I hope you know your bridge bunnies, extraneous personnel and main characters as well as you know the back of your hand, cos I’m gonna start slinging around names like there’s no tomorrow. This is one of only a few episodes I can say work as “normal” episodes of a giant robot series. Everybody (and I mean everybody)’s bumming around Tokyo-3 one day when all of a sudden the power goes out. The plots of this episode are as follows: Ritsuko and Maya try to get NERV power back online; Gendo and Fuyutsuki prepare the Evangelion for manual launch, because; Makoto is riding around Tokyo-3 in an ice cream truck telling everyone there’s an Angel; Misato and Kaji are stuck in an elevator; Shinji, Asuka and Rei struggle to get back into NERV headquarters.

No, you don’t have any idea who Maya, Fuyutsuki or Makoto are. Maya: bridge bunny sidekick to Ritsuko. Fuyutsuki: second-in-command to Gendo. Makoto: bridge bunny, with glasses. There are more characters you don’t know. Stop asking. You’ll find out eventually. This is the first episode where the entire cast is featured in a form of jigsaw puzzle like plot, with several separate strands intersecting at the final mech fight. This is not going to stop, just warning you.

Remember how last episode, I said that it was the first time the Shinji/Asuka/Rei dynamic had really been exploited by the writers? This episode might be the best example of their self-contained interaction. They start their plot trying to get into NERV headquarters. Even the way each of them tries to open the door with their keycards showcases their individual character quirks. Asuka is trying to dig under Rei’s skin about being Gendo’s favourite. Shinji stammers to defend her but can’t really come up with anything to face her. Of course, Asuka’s taunts overflow easily into a self-triggered raging screed against Rei for getting it so easy and always being right all the time and how everyone pays attention to her and not–yeah. Shinji, practicing for marriage, keeps his mouth shut.

Their interaction also spills over into the fight at the end of the episode. When cornered by an Angel that’s crying acid at them (long story), everyone’s stuck for a plan. Whereas Asuka had been useless earlier, her militaristic mind comes up with an easy strategy. However, instead of volunteering for the offensive position (of offense, defense and back-up), she takes the (far more dangerous) position of defense, saying that she owes Shinji for saving her life in the volcano. She wisely gives Shinji the offensive position–remember, Shinji may be a wimp, but he never loses.

Rei is fascinating, Asuka’s brash, Shinji’s hesitant, bridge bunnies start getting lines–it’s all very rote, sure. To write it down is to excise the soul from the episode itself. The accomplishment is in the many converging plotlines, using all of the characters at NERV excellently. ‘S-good. Standard.

She said, “Don’t make others suffer for your personal hatred.”:

Man. Those titles are starting to become a doozy, aren’t they? First Both of You, Dance Like You Want to Win! and now She said, “Don’t make others suffer for your personal hatred.” If you’re a fan of the series, you may have noticed I’m not sticking to Japanese or English titles. Truth is, I’m just going with whichever one I prefer. The Value of Miracles is a really crap title for this week’s episode.

Did that sound like filler? Cos it totally was. The second arc of this series, starting with Asuka Strikes!, is not particularly interesting on first blush. What can easily be missed within these episodes between the domestic comedy and character based humour is the subtle foreshadowing. For instance, this week, Shinji’s sync ratio with his robot has grown eight points in a week. Watch that. Gendo and Fuyutsuki are frequently off doing their own thing. That’s big. Basically, when you watch this arc, try to focus less on the humour–which is both abundant and doomed–and focus more on the dark character motivations and histories.

This week’s focus is Misato Katsuragi. The lone survivor of Second Impact, her life was saved by her father, whom she hated. He stuffed her in a life capsule and kicked her out to sea–where she saw the second Angel wreaking havoc on the continent where her family still was. She is the woman being addressed in the title of this week’s episode, being told by Ritsuko that her determination to defeat the Angels is not out of desire to protect the Earth, but instead to avenger her father.

This week’s Angel is a bomb in low Earth orbit. It intends to slam itself onto Tokyo-3 and blow up. Gotta admire its dedication. I mean, Jet Alone gave up after walking a couple miles. Dammit, Jet Alone.

Funny story: Misato hates her father. She’d never liked him and when her mom got a divorce from him, she felt happy. When he invited them out to Antarctica, she still hated him. Then he saved her life. She fights the Angels so that she can finally free herself from her obligation to him–perhaps to go back to loathing him. Didn’t anybody tell you? All the best cowboys, Majors and giant robot pilots have daddy issues.

Shinji relates to these father issues closely, especially with his own abandonment issues. On their way to the fight, Shinji asked Asuka why she pilots the giant robots. Where Rei said that she had nothing else, Asuka says she does it to get attention. Asuka asks Shinji why he does it. He doesn’t know. Misato and Shinji have been having a recurring discussion this week about how they’re both uncomfortable being praised in public. Remember that Misato/Shinji couple-counter? Add a couple points. Chemistry is off the charts.

At the end of the day, Gendo calls NERV from Antarctica to tell Shinji the pilot of Unit-01 that he did a good job. And that’s when Shinji realizes that he does it to gain the praise of his father.

The same guy who abandoned him at eight years old to build giant robots.

This is gonna end well…

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